Asus ZenWatch 3 review

This will be even better come Android Wear 2.0
Asus ZenWatch 3

If the Asus ZenWatch 3 is the last Android Wear 1-running smartwatch we review, it's a fitting finale. Put it next to the original LG G Watch or even the first Moto 360 and you can see how far the smartwatch has come in form and function, despite Android Wear 2.0 taking its sweet time.

This isn't to say the ZenWatch 3 is the best Android Wear watch you can buy right now, but it's undeniably one of the best looking. Or it will be until the Wear 2.0 levee breaks, and we get a flood of new devices.

Overhaul: Android Wear 2.0 update for your smartwatch

The good news is that the ZenWatch will be getting the software update very soon, so you needn't wait around if you've set your heart on Asus's third smartwatch.

Sadly, we haven't been able to wait that long, so for our review we've been using Wear 1.5. We'll return to the ZenWatch 3 when it gets the flashy new makeover, but until then, what's the verdict?

Asus ZenWatch 3: Design

Asus ZenWatch 3 review

The ZenWatch 3 is a beautiful smartwatch, and the first round one from Asus; the rectangle has thankfully been retired and there's nary a flat tyre in site, meaning this is the full 360-degree experience. It really is third time a charm, and Asus has made something that couldn't be accused of being too bulky – looking at you, Samsung Gear S3 – even if it will prove a little wide for some.

When we first played with the ZenWatch back at IFA 2016, we weren't massively impressed by the silver and white, but the gunmetal option with brown Italian leather strap is much more alluring. Disappointingly, the band is only interchangeable with ones tailored for the ZenWatch 3.

At 45mm wide the ZenWatch 3 isn't small, but with a 9.95mm depth it's also thin enough to be considered elegant. It's just a shame that this is let down by the large metal lugs that stop the watch sitting perfectly flush against non-Asus-standard wrists – and make it impossible to lay it flat. They make the watch feel unnecessarily rigid, and those with thin wrists should be wary of this.

Asus ZenWatch 3 review

The 400 x 400 resolution AMOLED display is pleasingly vibrant, and down the right side of the case are three chronograph buttons, the middle of which, despite actually rotating when you move it, doesn't work as a scrolling crown as on the Apple Watch. Still, it adds to the ZenWatch 3's feel of an authentic timepiece.

The top button is set to Asus's ZenFit app as default, and the bottom is Eco mode (just a fancy way of saying Airplane mode, really) but both can be changed to a different app if you'd prefer.

Asus ZenWatch 3: Features

Asus ZenWatch 3 review

The Zenwatch 3 comes running Android Wear with a few Asus twists that give it more of its own identity – more on that in a bit – though it lacks some other more notable features.

For starters, no NFC, so even when it does get Wear 2.0 the ZenWatch won't be supporting Android Pay. There's also no heart rate monitor, nor is there GPS. With the ZenWatch 3 pitched more at those who want a classy looking smartwatch and not a fitness device, this isn't a huge stick to beat it with, but it also means the fitness features that are there become quite a bit less useful.

Out of the box you'll have Asus's ZenFit app running on the watch, which sits in the background tracking your movement throughout the day. I've found the step counting to be quite accurate, but you can also start a recorded run, walk, sit-up session or push-up session from the wrist.

Without GPS, distance is measured by movement sensors, so it's not the most reliable way to track your travel. I did find the sit-up and push-up tracking to be accurate, save for a couple of times when it was off by one or two, but then I'm not sure who would need an app to count either of those things.

Asus ZenWatch 3
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If you do happen to take it running (and please, swap out the leather for a sports band before you do) the standard 4GB of onboard storage will let you load up your tunes and pair some Bluetooth headphones. Don't get it too wet, though, as the IP67 rating means it will survive rain but not a more serious dousing. Again, if you're looking for a fitness watch, look elsewhere.

There are other Asus apps in the mix too, including Asus Weather, Remote Link and even a flashlight app, which can be installed through the Manager app.

Powering all this along is the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, which, surprisingly, hasn't kept the experience as smooth as I'd hoped it would. It's far from the most sluggish Android Wear experience I've had, but it does chug a bit when notifications start piling up. True, this is partly a problem with Android Wear, and version 2.0 promises to make dealing with notifications less laborious, but I've also noticed some jittering when moving around menus. Nothing dramatic, but still noticeable from time to time.

Asus ZenWatch 3: Customisations and Manager app

Asus ZenWatch 3 review

I want to talk a bit about the special touches Asus has brought to Android Wear in the ZenWatch 3, as the lack of flexibility in letting OEMs tamper with Wear has been a criticism levelled at Google.

Now, Asus still hasn't been able to run wild, but it has added some of its own ingredients to the Android Wear experience that let it carve out more of an identity, including the apps we mentioned above. The UI has also been tweaked, with gold colouring that matches the gunmetal design plus some different shades to the backgrounds.


As mentioned before, the three buttons are also customisable, and you can head into the button setting app on the watch to play with them. Asus is also offering up a huge range of its own watch faces to choose from, but to get to these you'll need to download the separate ZenWatch Manager app from the Play Store. This isn't a compulsory download, though, and you can still use the ZenWatch 3 with just the standard Android Wear app if you prefer.

If you do download the Manager though, Asus currently has 55 available watch faces that you can pick from, ranging from the smart and sophisticated to the utterly monstrous – like this:

Asus ZenWatch 3 review

How in the name of Cher's Next Album Cover did this end up in the 'Most popular' section? I want names.

But there are plenty of less offensive options, and you can tweak things like hand motion (smooth or ticking) and screen dim timeout in the app too. If you're still left wanting after browsing Asus's extensive gallery, you also have the option to create your own using the FaceDesigner app.

Asus ZenWatch 3: Battery life

Battery life on the ZenWatch 3 isn't bad by smartwatch standards. I've managed to squeeze a little over two days on average, but that's with moderate, mostly passive use; mainly just checking notifications from time to time.

With more intense app use you're going to burn more hours off, especially if you keep the screen in always-on mode. On the plus side, the round charger juices up the watch nice and quickly: 30-45 minutes and you'll be fully powered up again and ready to take on the world.


Asus ZenWatch 3
By Asus
The Asus ZenWatch 3 is a well-rounded smartwatch, but Asus's fitness angle is weak without the features to support it. This is all about style, and it will be a much better device the moment it gets Android Wear 2.0. Until then, you're still looking at a classy watch with decent battery life and some nice custom twists from Asus.

Hit
  • It's a looker, alright
  • Good battery life
  • Is about to improve with Android Wear 2.0
Miss
  • Fitness aspect feels almost pointless
  • Those lugs
  • Limited strap options

17 Comments

  • Marridder says:

    looks good, but......."three Buttons..Casio got there first...."

    Hmm.....no...isn't that supposed to be the LG Urbane 2nd edition LTE ? (Which, in my opinion, is still the best one out there..)

  • royce says:

    you didn't indicate if you can answer calls with the watch

  • ElectriHolstein says:

    Before you go bashing a product, Moto 360, make sure you get your term and fact correct. It's called "Flat tire" not "Black tyre". Derp. Anyway, I like Asus products, and think the watch looks great. I think I'll get one.

  • Voolar says:

    It's a very pretty watch and thank god it doesn't have a flat tire.  I'm not sure about the Rose Gold though... Personal preference I suppose.

  • robzon says:

    I'm really curious how's the performance of SD2100 and battery life. My Moto360 (1st gen) battery died recently and I'm in the market for a new watch. I really like Huawei, but don't wanna miss out on SD2100's improvements (assuming they're worthwhile).

    I also hope rumors about Pixel watches are true and we'll see something directly from Google, but for now it's down to Zenwatch 3 or Huawei.

    • sandstedt says:

      Arent all Android Wear watches sort of Nexus/pixel devices? You cant change anything OS related as a manufactor. But yeah, it would be interesting to see Googles approach on it.

    • intrepidpursuit says:

      Well you can count on the Pixel watch to start at $350 and go up from there since Pixel means Apple mirror. That being the case this looks like the right watch.

  • Hubba says:

    how can you compare it's"feel in the hand"to the Huawei watch when the two are $300 apart???

  • danash182 says:

    Nowhere in the article did you justify the negative title. what exactly did ASUS mess up that makes the design TOO good?

  • bduerr1 says:

    I have now had the watch for about 4 weeks. Appearance wise it is not a bad looking watch for a smartwatch. I compared the Ranger watch face on my LG G Watch R and there is no obvious differences holding them side by side. Other that that fact that both watches will be able to support Android Wear 2, I do not see any real reason to upgrade.

    The most and more negative aspect of this watch is the lack of support from ASUS. After doing an extensive web search, I was on the phone with their customer service (in the Caribbean) for 59 minutes in an attempt to purchase an additional charger. I left mine at a friends house over the holidays. The answer is that there is none available: no part number, no price and no availability date. They do not know when or if one will be available. They were as polite as saying 'Sorry, but too bad". Also because of the proprietary nature of the watch band, none of them are available either.

    There was absolutely no measurable attempt to help to resolve the problem of having a watch that cannot be charged. They then told me to call their E-Store (only opened Mon-thru Fri 8-5) to find out if and when chargers would ever be available. Who has a e-tail/retail store only opened during business hours?????

    The Zenwatch 3 just like the Verizon Only ZenPad 10 are isolated products with little if any ASUS support. The only cover for the Verizon ZenPad 10 is available from Verizon . . . go figure.

    So the summary is, nice price, nice battery life, looks OK, no big feature differences from any other Android Wear watch, absolutely NO CUSTOMER SUPPORT and NO, NONE, NOT ANY accessories. . . yet - TBD. For a big company this certainly looks like an after thought.

    Watch is going back to Google and ZenPad 10 is going back to Verizon. Time to go look at Samsung . . . 

    • Impulses says:

      Bands and spare chargers now available at B&H for $30.

  • xToddrick says:

    Another illogically round smartwatch.  Apple understands that a rectangular smartwatch is the better design.  I would be very disappointed if they make a round model.

  • shuteye123 says:

    DO NOT BUY THIS WATCH. I've owned one since it came out in November 2016. Yes the actual watch is good but this is where it ends. Two major problems - the band and their customer service/tech support.

    The Band - first it has a horrible design. Its a proprietary system so you cannot change out the band with another. You can only use ASUS bands and currently they only have a leather band option. Also, they sell you on the fact that its waterproof but who would use a leather band under water. So its not really waterproof. The actual leather band they use is cheap. It cracked and fraded within a few weeks. Which leads to the other problem...

    Customer Service/Tech Support - so I reached out to them and asked when they would have a metal band. Carter X (the CSR who mis-lead me) said not for along time but we will replace your band. Set up an RMA and send your watch in for a replacement. So, I did that. Then I get a email from their service center that the band is not under warranty and they wanted to charge $60.00 to put on another cheap leather band. I explained that it was their CSR who told me they would replace it in the first place which just fell on deaf ears. So if you plan to buy an Asus product be prepared for a ridged unsatisfactory customer service experience. I certainly will never buy an Asus product again.

  • fran says:

    Looks beautiful. I think the best looking watches right now are the Zenwatch 3 and Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

  • scottie56 says:

    I've owned the watch for as long as it has been on the market, before this Android watch I've owned 2 other smart watches. This watch by far has been the best. I enjoy the fact that Asus took out the fad options such as heat rate and fitness items and made the watch elegant and practical. So far the face has held up being used in not so perfect conditions. As far as the cost goes it's worth every cent. For the folks that want a perfect companion for their smartphone this Android watch hits the mark. I hardly need to use my phone for texts and phone call while in the Bluetooth enabled car. I can keep up with everything via the watch without constantly looking at the phone.

  • Griff says:

    Was going to get this, but when I found you cannot buy new straps or a spare charging cable (I know, sounds crazy), I decided against it. Waiting to see what 2017 may bring... 

    • Impulses says:

      You actually can, not sure why Amazon isn't stocking them but B&H has both in stock.

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